Public Transport in China

TRANSIT took note of this very interesting commentary about the public transport system in China, especially in Shanghai and Beijing.

We will follow up this initial article with some additional links and photos of public transport in China.

In the meantime, please enjoy the article and the following links from

Well-planned public transport system

9 October 2009

YOU don’t need a car to drive around Beijing. The public transport in the Chinese capital takes you anywhere without any hassle.

There are almost 21,000 public buses plying 285.5km of bus lanes and eight subway and light rail lines, giving Beijing residents more reasons to opt for mass transportation.

Today, the number of public buses has increased by eight-fold compared with those in 1978. The buses run with additional carriages for larger capacity and the waiting time between buses has shortened to 10 minutes.

A survey showed that 37.3% of the city dwellers used public buses, subway and light rail as their mode of transport (up 0.5% from last year) while 33.9% of them opted to drive their cars.

For the masses: Public buses in Beijing are a popular mode of transport. Image courtesy of The Star
For the masses: Public buses in Beijing are a popular mode of transport. Image courtesy of The Star

Those who cycled were 19.7% and 7.2% relied on taxis. Despite a gradual increase in the number of cars, the municipal government continues to invest massively in public transport and make it even more attractive.

For instance, the buses are cleaner and emit lesser greenhouse gases, and the old Line 1 trains (which still have ceiling fans) have been overhauled and replaced by newer ones.

Malaysian Raymond Choong, who works as a promotions manager in Beijing and Shanghai for the past three years, said he was very comfortable with public transport in China and would not ever consider buying a car here.

He said the public transport in China was well organised.

“It gives me the impression that the government has the consumers and the people in mind when developing the public transport system,” he said.

It is less of a hassle and one can take the subway to many places and connect with buses at a low price (two yuan (RM1) fare for both subway and buses.

A drawback: The public bus system is in great demand that sometimes it can be overcrowded - image courtesy of The Star
A drawback: The public bus system is in great demand that sometimes it can be overcrowded - image courtesy of The Star

As for taxis in major Chinese cities, Choong said the Chinese government would not compromise with any touts or taxi drivers who did not use the meter or refuse to take the customer.

In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, there are so many taxis available every where anytime. The government is very strict with the disciplining of taxi drivers. If they receive three complaints from the public, they will have their licence revoked, he said.

The taxi driver would be dealt with if they behave badly, drive recklessly, refuse to go to places requested by the passenger, use the cellphone or smoke at work, he added.

I have mainly pleasant experiences of using the public transport in China. When I am unable to find my way, the driver will stop to ask people or even call other drivers for help with directions.

“In Malaysia, we definitely need a car because our transport system is far behind other countries like Bangkok, Singapore or China,” he said.

In Shanghai, China’s financial centre, there are 16,600 buses, 48,000 taxis and eight metro and light rail lines (with three more to be completed before the Shanghai World Expo 2010).

The city’s public transport fulfilled its task of commuting 4.9 billion people per time last year, up 8.6% from 2007. By next year, the travelling time for all locations in the city centre will be within an hour and passengers in the suburb will only take one bus to the nearest metro station.

Authorities also promise that the buses will travel at not less than 15km/h to keep waiting time to the minimum.

Malaysian Adam Goi, who studies Chinese language in the city, said the Shanghai metro system covered more areas than the LRT lines in the Klang Valley.

“They have 10 trains attached together and ours only have about two carriages. The interchanges of the Shanghai metro system are within a complex where commuters need not check out and buy another ticket to take a different line to the intended destination,” he said.

He is full of praise for the bus routes and facilities in the city.

He added that all bus stops had an information board which displayed the bus routes and taking a public bus to get to the express bus terminal was also very convenient.

The public transport infrastructure here is well planned. If there is something Shanghai needs to improve, it will be the queuing system at bus stops.

Other criticisms on the public transport in China are that buses and trains are overcrowded during peak hours and that it is too tiring to change buses to get to the final destination.

Despite that, buses and metro trains are still the most affordable and reliable mode of transport as not many people can afford to buy a car, not to mention the licence plate which cost up to 50,000 yuan (RM26,000).

Shanghai is the only city in China where car owners must bid for the licence plate under the municipal government’s move since 1986 to limit the number of cars.

Shanghainese Sarah Huang, who takes the bus to work, said she would still consider buying a car as the bus and subway were too crowded and did not offer time flexibility.

Of course, it will be good to have my own car. But, during public holidays, I would still opt for public transport as it would be difficult to find space to park, she said.


3 replies on “Public Transport in China”

am an american, i want to take a ride down to malaysia on the 28th of this month and from there to china,i need your guide line about the trans portion from malaysia to china . i mean the local transports from malaysia to china

Hi @Timi

There is no direct land public transport link between Malaysia and China. The Chinese Government has proposed a complete link between Singapore and Kunming but there would be some years before this is complete.

If you are interested in a wonderful train experience, you can take a train (the Eastern & Orient Express) from Kuala Lumpur (or Singapore) to Bangkok, then look at a flight from Bangkok to southern China, where you can access China’s rail network.


Moaz for TRANSIT

public transportation is still not recommendable in China, as in most cases you find it too crowded especially in rush hours, but you can experience it when it is less likely to be crowded.

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